Australian Military Vehicles Research
An M3 General Stuart of the 9th Australian
Division Cavalry Regiment 1942
By Shane Lovell and Michael Grieve
The following article provides a photographic walk around of M3 Light General Stuart, War Department Number T-37603, based on two photos taken on 8 August 1942 and held by the Australian War Memorial. The tank was one of five General Stuarts operated by the 9th Australian Division Cavalry Regiment (9 Aust Div Cav Regt) in the Western Desert during the second half of 1942.
The early history of T-37603 is unknown. On the basis of the War Department number alone, it would suggest the tank arrived in the Middle East late in 1941 or very early in 1942. Records identify that by July 1942, it was part of A Squadron, 6th Battalion, Royal Tank Regiment (A Sqn 6RTR). Interestingly, during this period A Sqn, 6 RTR was attached to 9 Australian Division and the vehicle participated in support of Operation Bulimba. On 19 July 1942 it was amongst nine General Stuarts handed over to 9 Aust Div Cav Regt.
Of the nine vehicles handed over, only five were considered serviceable after inspection and taken onto Regimental strength. With the additional vehicles the Regiments vehicle strength at the end of July 1942 stood at seven Crusader (Mk I and II), five M3 General Stuarts and 70 carriers.
Left rear ¾ view. The tank features a riveted hull and D38976 welded turret. Although not visible it is believed that it is also fitted with direct vision visors for the hull gunner and driver. A .30 inch calibre Browning machine gun is mounted on the crew commanders cupola. Ammunition is provided by the small version ammunition box. Additional fittings have been added under a desert modification schedule devised and fitted in the Middle East. (For modellers, these fittings can be found in the 1/35 scale Academy M3 Stuart Honey, kit number 1399)
During September /October 1942, T 37603 participated in the Regiments operations during second El Alamein. The 9th Australian Division attacked in the northern sector of the British position and after the breakthrough of 3 November, 9 Aust Div Cav Regt led the pursuit along the coast.
At the commencement of the battle 9 Aust Div Cav Regt had a vehicle strength of 15 Crusader (I and II), five M3 General Stuarts and 52 carriers. The M3 General Stuarts were allocated to 13 and 14 Troop, C Squadron. 13 Troop comprised three tanks and 14 Troop comprised two tanks. Unfortunately, there is no evidence to indicate which vehicles were allocated to which troop.
The history of T 37603 after January 1943 is unknown. At this point 9 Aust Div Cav Regt handed in its vehicles and returned, along with the rest of the Division to Australia.
Rear view of "Brocklesby". Note the lack of any unit formation signs, and the squadron markings on either side of the turret rear.
Camouflage and Markings
The tank is painted in a single overall finish. This is most likely BS 381C: 1930 No.61 Light Stone, which was the standard vehicle finish at this stage of the desert campaign. The paint finish also appears to be heavily faded, though this may be merely a trick of the black and white photos.
Visible markings are limited to the War Department number, vehicle name and squadron tactical signs. The War Department number is painted on the upper hull side, and presumably also appears on the opposite side as well. It has been applied in white paint on a patch of the original US Olive Drab.
While AWM Photo 024793 shows the vehicle name as Brockles, this is probably not the full vehicle name. Research suggests that it is actually named Brocklesby and the rear portion is obscured in AWM photo 042793 by one of the crew members. Other of the M3 General Stuarts were named after towns in the Australian States of New South Wales and Victoria. Two other M3 General Stuart names recorded are Carramballac and Dimboola, both the names of towns in Victoria, though Carranballac is incorrectly spelled. This mistake may have been copied from the vehicle or be a typographical error in the source document. Following this hypothesis one comes up with the name Brocklesby, a town in New South Wales.
Brocklesby is painted on the upper hull side in white capital letters. The background is probably black, as it appears darker than the US Olive Drab background on which the War Department number is painted. Black would also have been a colour readily available within the regiment as the 9 Aust Div formation sign had a black background.
Also visible are two Squadron tactical signs, squares, on the rear of each side of the turret. These identify the vehicle as belonging to B Squadron of an earlier owner, and as yet unidentified Regiment. Best evidence indicates that the colour of the squadron symbols is either red or blue, signifying that the owner at the time the markings were applied was either the senior or junior regiment within its brigade.
The authors would like to acknowledge the assistance of Roddy de Normann, Peter Brown and Richard Simmie. We would particularly like to thank William Marshall for preparing the colour profile. Photos 024793 and 024796 reproduced with the permission of the Australian War Memorial
AWM 52: 5/2/10 9 Australian Divisional Cavalry Regiment War
AWM 52: 14/60/2 2/82 Light Aid Detachment War Diary
War Diary 6th Battalion, Royal Tank Regiment
Pura, C. Black Berets: The History and Battles of the 9th Division Cavalry Regiment, 9th Australian Division Cavalry Regiment Association, Melbourne, 1983
Kiwis in Armour Website
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